Finally a month that left me wanting more! I read mulitple books that were so good – it made choosing a favorite SO HARD! It was a hard decision, and on a given day, it may have been one of the honoranble mentions instead! If you’re looking for a book recommendation, you wouldn’t go wrong with any of the books on my favorite book of the month/honorable mentions list!
What did you read in December and enjoy?
December By the Numbers:
- Total Books Read: 13
- Audiobooks: 0
- Five Star Reads: 4
- Debuts: 5 (38%)
- Published in 2022: 9 (69%)
- Nonfiction Reads: 4 (31%)
- By Women Authors: 9 (69%)
- Books by BIPOC Authors: 3 (23%)
- Diverse Books: 1 (8%)
- Goodreads Challenge: 125/125 (100%)
- 12 Friends + 12 Books + 12 Months: 9/12 (75%)
- Nonfiction Challenge: 9/12 (75%)
- Unread Shelf: 13/24 (54%)
- EIWTB Challenge: 11/12 (92%)
- A to Z Challenge: 22/26 (85%)
Favorite Book of the Month:
Dinosaurs by Lydia Millet
Spoiler alert: I LOVED this one! I put it off because it felt like a book that wouldn’t work for me, but I was so wrong and I’m so glad I gave it a chance! I think Gil might be one of my favorite literary characters ever (I know…strong statement!) but he just made the book for me. The secondary characters were also pretty great. This is a super quiet novel and not a ton happens, but the writing is superb and I was immediately engrossed. And I also loved the desert setting of Arizona – a place I hold dear to my heart.
What Made Maddy Run: The Secret Struggles and Tragic Death of an All-American Teen by Kate Fagen
The Instagram feed of Madison Holleran paints a picture of a beautiful, happy nineteen-year-old. She looks like she has everything going for her – good grades, good friends, and a full-ride scholarship to the University of Pennsylvania to run track and field. So why did she jump to her death? This is a heartbreaking story of mental health, pressure, and a girl who was able to hide behind the little square photos in her Instagram feed. Her parents and friends recognized that there were problems with Maddy and they worked to help her feel better, but none of them realized how deep the pain ran and how bad things really were. This is a must read for all parents, coaches, athletic directors, and other school personnel that work closely with our children. There is a rise in suicide and we owe it to those we know and love to heed the warning signs. If you or someone you know is suffering, please dial or text 988.
A Quiet Life by Ethan Joella
This is completely out of my wheelhouse…and I loved it! It was a quiet novel (no pun intended 😉) that met me at the exact right time. The three main characters are all dealing with some really heavy stuff – stuff that mainly centers around grief – but their paths cross and it ends completely upbeat and hopeful and will restore your faith in humanity. It’s a book about bravery after loss, compassion for those around you, and realizing that there is hope and happiness after hard times. This is a great book to cozy up next to the fire with this winter season!
The Storyteller: Tales of Life and Music by Dave Grohl
It hasn’t been since Elton John’s book, Me, that I’ve enjoyed a celebrity memoir this much! Grohl is heartfelt, warm, and down to Earth. His passion for music and his career shined through the pages and it was totally infectious! I think it’s always interesting to hear how people make it big – and it’s risky because they can either come off as very egotistical and completely unrelatable, or they can win us over. Grohl accomplishes the latter and by the end of the book, he felt like a friend – someone I’d love to hang out with. I loved his adoring relationship with his kids and the way his bandmates and crew became his family. He just really comes across as a genuine guy. And it took me back to my early high school years which gave me a bit of nostalgia, too.
Trust by Hernan Diaz
One of the most unique storylines I’ve read so far this year, this is an interesting book to try to describe. It’s primarily about one man who singlehandedly influenced the stock market crash of 1929. Told in four parts, each part switches perspectives to give the reader another layer of the story. The more I read, the more invested I became. It’s a slow build that ends with a big impact! Truth be told, I’m almost more in awe of the author’s abilty to pull this whole thing off than the actual story itself! There’s a lot to digest and dissect here; this would make a really good book club discussion as there are so many different themes and layers to analyze. Some of the book certainly felt over my head, but I also thought this was a well done story that I’m glad I read before the year ended.
We All Want Impossible Things by Catherine Newman
I put off publishing my Top 10 Books of 2022 list because I was 90% sure this one was going to make the list. Unfortunately, had it not been for the main character, Ash, it probably would have. I adored the parts that actually involved Edi, the woman in hospice who is dying from ovarian cancer. I loved the flashbacks to their early childhood days and how they grew up together. They traveled across Europe together, married each other off, and birthed babies into the world with one another. They had the kind of friendship I have longed for all my life. But, in these pages, Ash came through way too much. I needed more Edi and way less Ash. She was self-absorbed, selfish, and narcissistic. I almost couldn’t get passed her screwing everyone she came in contact with (her dying best friend’s oncologist…seriously?!?! And her brother?!?! And her daughter’s gym teacher substitute…major eye rolls). But it wasn’t just that…it was the fact that Edi, her dying friend, had to point out how selfishly she was tossing away her life…the one thing Edi wanted more than anything else. This book had so much potential and I really appreciate Newman’s attempt, but Ash was so unlikeable that it tainted the overall story. However, having explained all the reasons this book isn’t quite a 5-star read for me, I will also say I loved how funny it was and how heartbreakingly sad it was. I truly was smiling at the banter one second and wiping tears away the next. I will remember pieces of this book for a long time…and it will even live on my favorites shelf where I will recommend it to others. This in no way resembled my own experience with hospice and watching my own mama pass from ovarian cancer, but there were some real and raw moments that brought so much of those last days back to me. I wish there would have been more of those and less of Ash’s sex life, that’s all.
Books With an Artistic Flare:
The Cartographers by Peng Shepherd
The reviews for this one are terrible…and I don’t know why! I thought this one was interesting, unique, and so incredibly fascinating…especially the Author’s Note at the end when my jaw literally hit the ground! I suppose the story could have moved a little faster, but the way it all came together in the end was worth the wait. I wanted to know what the heck was going on, how all these people were being murdered, and why Nell and her father became estranged many years before. I was sad that they were never able to mend their relationship, but also understood the author’s explanation in the end. Even more than the story was the historical aspect of this book. I went down a rabbit hole about mapmaking, cartography, and Rand McNally. This was such a good book and I wish it had gotten more attention this year!
Fake by Erica Katz
This is my second book by Katz, and while very different from her debut (The Boys’ Club), it’s clear that she has a real talent for writing engaging stories. While I’m definitely not an art aficionado, I loved this behind-the-scenes look at high-end art and the fakery that happens behind closed doors. Generally speaking, I enjoyed how Katz explored the whole theme of “fake” – from the art decoys to the social media influencer realm. She is crafty the way she builds stories, sucking her readers in with each chapter. Here, she used interviews that created some drama and foreshadowing before the actual chapter. I was very entertained as the story unraveled, and I’m eager to read her next book!
Page Turning Mystery/Thrillers:
The Family Game by Catherine Steadman
Maybe because I don’t read a lot of thrillers, my standards for them aren’t too high? I think this one has low ratings, but I was into it! The weird background of this family and the absolutely bizarre games they play had me freaked out. Did I think they were a little (ok, a lot) outlandish? Yes. Did I figure out the big twist before the reveal? Also, yes. But this was the perfect distraction – and the Christmas time setting was the icing on the cake!
Shiver by Allie Reynolds
We’ve been in the midst of an extreme Arctic blast, so this was the perfect time to read this one! Set in the French Alps, five friends come back together for a reunion of sorts. It’s been ten years since they last saw each other, and they split without any more contact because one of their close friends had died and nobody really knew how. They assumed she fell into a crevasse, but because a body was never recovered, they don’t really know. As soon as they step off the chairlift at a desolate snow camp, things quickly begin to unravel – and no one knows who they can believe or trust. The chapters were short and alternated between the present and the past allowing for some really good cliffhangers. I tore through this one and really enjoyed it. I recently saw someone on bookstagram say that the way they feel about thrillers is the vibe they put off and that made so much sense to me. I agree – and this one was totally a vibe for me!
The Attic Child by Lola Jaye
On the surface, Lowra and Dikembe (Celestine) could not be more different. Nearly a century of time separates them, and Lowra is white while Dikembe is Black. But as the story slowly unravels, it becomes more and more clear that they actually have quite a bit in common. Told in dual timelines that eventually come together for a really satisfying ending, we learn that both of these people had been locked in an attic when they were young. Dikembe had put the only three possessions he’s ever had in the floorboards of the attic for safekeeping and many years later, Lowra finds them. When she inherits the house, she immediately runs to the attic to retrieve these items…and she is slowly led back to Dikembe. As is usually the case for me with dual timelines, I was way more invested in Dikembe’s timeline and felt like Lowra was simply there to further his story along. Sadly, I didn’t really feel much for Lowra’s story at all, but would have loved an entire book on Dikembe alone. For that reason, this book was just ok for me; it just really lost its momemtum when we switched timelines. And, even though Dikembe was a powerful character in his own right and I was totally invested in his story, there was a depth to him and the story as a whole that just felt short. The premise is all here, but the execution lacked, unfortunately.
Memoirs/Essay Collections About Addiction:
Drinking Games by Sarah Levy
First, Levy is so incredibly brave and vulnerable sharing her story. Because drinking is such an accepted, celebrated, even – aspect of our society, I believe many can sweep its potential severity under the rug quite easily. But the fact of the matter is that alcoholism is one of the most problematic issues of our culture. I, for one, applaud those who speak candidly about their experiences with alcohol and their choice to live an alcohol-free lifestyle. For whatever reason, there’s almost a stigma that you can’t have a fun and fulfilling life without alcohol, but as Levy writes, it’s absolutely possible, and maybe even desirable. I do not have an issue with alcohol – I can take it or leave it – but I know that’s not the case for a lot of people. Levy struggled hard and made so many questionable decisions while under the influence. Her essays (I wouldn’t classify this as a memoir as much as I would an essay collection) are raw, honest, and introspective. Not only does she examine the culture around alcohol and recovery, she also tackles other issues like anxiety, body image, and life beyond drinking.
Original Sins: An Extraordinary Memoir of Faith, Family, Shame, and Addiction by Matt Rowland Hill
I took a chance on this one after I came across it at my local Barnes and Noble. I read the first chapter in the aisle and added it to my cart to buy because I was instantly captured. I wanted to read Hill’s personal account of drug addiction and recovery, but mostly I was compelled by his way with words. When Hill’s story took a weird turn into some deep religious issues that he muddled through on the pages, this story really lost its initial momentum. I appreciate the hard work he was trying to get through, but it became bogged down in long, meandering sentences renouncing his faith and his childhood upbringing. I can see how this book was probably very therapeutic to the author and assisted him in his recovery, but it was hard for me to remain focused.